Peres gets first fruits from Dead Sea region kids

Megilot-Dead Sea Region kids bring president first fruits of harvest in place of ancient temple ritual.

May 23, 2012 14:39
2 minute read.
President Shimon Peres smiles with a young visitor

Peres and young girl 370. (photo credit: Marc Neiman/GPO)


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Because the upcoming festival of Shavuot is a harvest festival and one of three pilgrim festivals during which in ancient times the Children of Israel brought offerings to the Temple, the latter day celebration in Israel includes bringing a first fruit offering to the President of the State.

Each year, farmers from a different part of the country come to Jerusalem bearing not only the seven Biblical species of olives, pomegranates, grapes, figs, wheat, barley and dates, but also many other fruits and vegetables, including new strains that are exported to foreign markets.

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This year it was the turn of the Megilot-Dead Sea Regional Council which brought not only its edible first fruits, but also its human ones.

In recent years council chairman Motti Dahaman, one of the founders of Kibbutz Kfar Shalom told President Shimon Peres, there has been a 20 per cent population increase in the area, with many young couples and young families opting to live in the region. "We now have a whole new generation of desert population," he said, indicating some of the parents who had come with babies in their arms in addition to the group of white clad kindergarten children with garlands in their hair symbolizing two aspects of the festival.

The white symbolizes purity, because Shavuot is the anniversary of the giving of the Torah – the body of Jewish Law – to the Children of Israel. Therefore it is customary on such a hallowed occasion to dress in white. It is also customary to eat dairy products, not necessarily because milk, cream and cream cheese are white, but because the gematria of halav, the Hebrew word for milk is 40, which is the number of days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai before receiving the Torah.

Dahaman told Peres that 40 per cent of the region's income comes from farming and another 40 per cent from tourism. . The region is particularly famous for its dates which are in high demand abroad.

Over the past year some two million visitors came to vacation or explore the region, he said..

Peres who is extremely fond of young children, especially those with inquisitive minds delighted in their company and held spontaneous conversations with them. He also made a point of tickling every baby under the chin or caressing its tiny fingers..

He told the kindergartners how much he enjoyed their singing and dancing and said that he wanted to thank them from the bottom of his heart for coming to Jerusalem and for the gifts that they had brought him. "But the most important gifts you brought were yourselves," he said, adding that all the children present were the products of wonderful pioneering families "who took one of the most difficult places in the world and turned it into something magic." Peres told the youngsters that they were welcome to come to the residence at any time they wanted in the future.

Dahaman reminded Peres that many years ago, Peres during a tour of the Dead Sea area had written a poem about Kalia, which is one of the most scenically beautiful sections of the region. "That poem has always been an inspiration to us," said Dahaman.

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